Led by Dr Fuschia Sirois, University of Sheffield, in association with University of East London, and the Institute of Cultural Capital (University of Liverpool)
This study proposes an always-on, easy-to-use Empathy Agent (EA) to deliver peer-support in a digital arena. By crowdsourcing empathic responses generated by real users, the EA will grow smarter and more empathic with each use and thus improve over time. Currently, there are no online, automatic systems available like this; the increasingly ubiquitous chatbot technology are mostly based on prewritten scripts. The primary objective of this project is to extend the NewMind Funded Stage 1 Feasibility work by building and testing a demonstrator system of the Empathy Agent, using several service-user centred design cycles. First, service users will rate the existing bank of responses from Stage 1 in an online survey. The study will then explore recent advances in natural language processing and machine learning to construct a demonstrator system in order to provide the most appropriate responses. This system will then be trialled with a small group of servicer users to evaluate its ability to deliver empathetic responses in an appropriate manner. The system will provide instant responses crowdsourced from peers to deliver the voice of the peer support community in an empathetic and appropriate way in times of need.